In this chapter Michael Lissack suggests that the language of complexity theory can become an obstacle to managers’ understanding its principles.
The London School of Economics (LSE) provides definitions of complexity in management that are intended to help managers (Figure 5.1). However, in my view these are not necessarily helpful. Take terms such as context-dependent, interrelationships, individuals versus artifacts, interactions, distinguishing between organization and environment, connectivity, constituent elements, patterns, structures, evolution; or buzzy words such as nonlinearity, self-organization, emerging properties, and sensitivity to initial conditions. This is not vocabulary with which most managers are very comfortable. If you try to get them to manage on the basis of this definition, they’re going to look at you as if you are crazy.
The LSE definitions continue in a similar light. Those in Figure 5.2 explain the environment within which managers function. As a metaphor this may be very useful to help managers understand what is happening in their world, but it would take a great deal of study to gain some insight or understanding. In terms of a simple-to-grab mental model, it doesn’t quite fit the bill.